From the perspective of individuals or organizations, cloud computing involves the outsourcing of a network of remote computers and servers from a provider of cloud computing services. On the other hand, from the standpoint of providers, it also pertains to the delivery of computer processing capabilities, database storage, applications, and other information technology resources via the Internet.
Cloud computing essentially allows end-user individuals and organizations to remotely use IT resources of service providers without the need to build and maintain physical networks of computers and servers. Hence, cloud computing services present these IT resources as a utility just like electricity and water.
The Pros: Benefits and Advantages of Cloud Computing
1. Provides Cost Savings For Individuals and Organizations
One of the notable benefits or advantages of cloud computing is that it is relatively more cost-effective than building and maintaining physical IT infrastructures. The cost savings stem from the fact that providers of cloud computing services have the economies of scale to provide IT infrastructures remotely.
Individual and organizational end-users or customers need not invest in purchasing and installing hardware and software products, as well as spend on maintaining their entire physical IT capability. Cost savings from cloud computing essentially mean that a lowered barrier to entry for individuals or organizations requiring IT capabilities
Several studies have explored the cost-effectiveness of cloud computing. The case study of P. Kudtarkar et al. used the cloud services of Amazon for the computational requirements of genomics research to determine how much cost research organizations could save if they forego localized computer processing. Results revealed a projected cost savings of at least 40 percent less when compared to using and maintaining physical IT infrastructures.
Another study by K. Kawatra and V. Kumar involved a cost analysis of on-premise or physical IT capability versus IT capability via cloud computing in educational institutions. Using a specific laboratory set up as a case, the study revealed a total savings of USD 1.2 million for a one-year period and USD 393,598.00 for a three-year period. These cost savings stem from less recurring cost and less upfront cost.
Individuals and small organizations with limited financial capabilities and IT competencies can also benefit from cloud computing. Case in point is similar cloud services such as web hosting and virtual private network services that allow end-users to access relevant IT resources. Note that even larger organizations such as the streaming service provider Netflix and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration use the cloud computing services from Amazon Web Services.
2. Location Independence Through Remote Access
The fact that cloud computing provides remote access to hardware and software resources provide more specific benefits or advantages centered on flexibility through location independence.
Device independence is a notable benefit of cloud computing. Several providers enable users to access applications or systems using web browsers or apps that are available across different desktop and mobile operating systems and thin clients. Maintenance of these applications or systems is easier because they do not need to be installed in each and every local device.
Individuals and organizations are also independent from the limitations of physical IT infrastructures and resources because cloud-based hardware and software can be accessed from anywhere where there is an Internet connection. This translates to specific benefits such as establishing different work locations with a centralized cloud-based IT infrastructure, working while traveling, and telecommuting or remote work arrangements.
Note that Netflix has benefitted from using cloud computing services from Amazon Web Services by enabling it to operate different servers across different parts of the world. To be specific, these cloud-based servers enable the company to deliver its services to subscribers located in different parts of the world.
3. Scalability and Flexibility of IT Capabilities
Scalability and flexibility are another advantages of cloud computing. These are the reasons why cloud computing appeals to individuals and a variety of organizations regardless of their size and IT requirements.
Several providers of cloud computing services offer flexible subscription or service plans that take into consideration the different financial capabilities and IT requirements of end-users. An individual or small organizations can easily opt for the most economical plan, but they still have the option to upgrade to a high-tier plan or include add-ons to their existing plan if ever they decide to scale their operation. Note that there are also different types of cloud computing services or categories of service models.
Having scalable and flexible IT capabilities have specific benefits. For starters, end-users do not need to invest immediately in building high-performing IT infrastructure. Cloud computing services give them an option to choose the plan that suits their best interests. Once they require better IT capabilities, they do not need to reinvest on building one and acquire technical competencies needed for implementation. Cloud computing is often an easy-to-deploy solution that requires minimal to zero IT expertise.
It is also important to note that cloud computing provides different dimensions of scalability. For example, it provides functional scalability that enables an end-user to enhance its IT capability by adding new functionality with minimal effort. It also provides load scalability by allowing expansion or contraction of resource utilization depending on the workload requirements.
4. Confers All the Benefits of Outsourcing
An individual or organization choosing to avail cloud computing services from a third-party provider can easily enjoy the benefits or advantages of outsourcing. Remember that from the standpoint of providers, IT infrastructure and resources are presented as a utility or a service.
One of the advantages of outsourcing IT capabilities via a cloud computing service is that it provides end-users with access to technology and talent that can build and improve their competitive advantage. Providers such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft have state-of-the-art facilities and highly competent experts that can provide not only services but also actual use-case solutions.
Another benefit centers on improved productivity. By outsourcing IT capabilities via a cloud computing service, individuals and organizations can focus on their core competencies or strengths. Remember that providers of cloud services are responsible not only for building and deploying the IT capability of their clients but also for maintenance and security requirements.
The study of Y. Sun et al. concluded that security and privacy issues remain a significant barrier in the further adoption of cloud computing. It added that although there have been proposed and actionable measures or techniques used to promote security and privacy, the relationship between cloud computing services providers and end-users still play a role in building and maintaining trust.
The Cons: Limitations and Disadvantages of Cloud Computing
1. Lack of Full Control Over IT Capabilities
A notable disadvantage of cloud computing is that individuals and organizations cannot have full and extensive control over their IT infrastructure and resources. These end-users are considerably dependent on the capabilities of their cloud computing service providers. It is important to note that different providers have different capabilities and service inclusions.
Bruce Schneider, an American computer security professional and privacy specialist, explained that one of the downsides of cloud computing is that end-users have limited customization options. He reminded that cloud computing is cheaper than having a physical and localized IT capability because its features and service inclusions are off-the-shelf or predefined. In other words, the selling point of cloud computing is fewer options at a lower price.
The lack of extensive control also means that end-users have no other choice but to embrace the limitations of their particular providers. The only workaround this disadvantage is for them to look for and choose another provider with capabilities and service inclusions that would match their requirements.
2. Issues Concerning Security and Privacy
Remember that a critical disadvantage of cloud computing is that end-users do not have full control over their IT resources and their entire IT infrastructure. This offshoot translates further to an inability to control and manage extensively security and privacy requirements.
A systematic review by H. Singh et al. identified security and privacy risks associated with cloud computing. These include network-level and application-level security issues, portability and interoperability risks, susceptibility toward data breaches, data storage risks, and performance and reliability issues.
There are also concerns over access and ownership of data. Cynics have expressed their concern over the fact that providers can easily access data of their clients at any time. These providers can either accidentally or deliberately alter or delete these data. In addition, there is also an issue about who exactly owns the data. Some providers have vague terms of service. It is crucial for end-users to scrutinize the services of and agreements with any providers.
3. Dependence on Internet Connectivity
Another limitation of cloud computing is its dependence on the Internet and a reliable Internet connection. Note that the fact that it depends on Internet connective means that end-users can access their IT infrastructure and resources from anywhere and using any device. However, individuals and organizations in areas with poor Internet connectivity or where access to high-speed Internet is expensive would find cloud computing counterproductive.
Power outages due to natural and human-made calamities also affect access to the Internet. Take note that even providers of Internet services are also affected by these calamities. End-users that are highly dependent on their IT capabilities and with no solid risk management plan have no choice but to suspend their operations during these outages. Inoperability could mean additional costs due to loss of business.
Tasks such as data processes and application operations could be delayed or lost entirely due to power or network outages. Note that outages could happen either from the side of an end-user or the side of the service provider. Hence, Internet connection is the most basic drawback of cloud computing.
FURTHER READINGS AND REFERENCES
- Kawatra, K. and Kumar, V. 2018. “Cost Benefit Analysis of Cloud Computing in Education.” International Journal of Business. 27(2): 205-221. DOI: 10.1504/IJBIS.2018.089112
- Kudtarkar, P., Fusaro, V. A., Deluca, T. F., and Wall, D. P. 2010. “Cost-Effective Cloud Computing: A Case Study Using the Comparative Genomics Tool, Roundup.” Evolutionary Bioinformatics Online. 6(6): 197-203. DOI: 10.4137/EBO.S6259
- Schneider, B. 2015. “Should Companies Do Most of Their Computing in the Cloud?” Schneider on Security. Available online
- Sing, H., Manhas, P., Maan, D., and Sethi, N. 2016. “Cloud Computing Security and Privacy Issues: A Systematic Review.” International Journal of Control Theory and Applications. 9(10): 4979-4992. Available online
- Sun, Y., Zhang, J., Xiong, Y., and Zhu, G. 2014. “Review Article: Data Security and Privacy in Cloud Computing.” International Journal of Distributed Sensor Networks. 10(7): 190903. DOI: 10.1155/2014/190903